Learning about wine, vines and vignerons whilst living in the Languedoc




View from Sigolsheim Nécropole over Grand Cru vineyards

When I first started to develop my passion for wine it was the books of English writer Oz Clarke which guided my tastes and my visits to the wine regions of France. I recall an evocative piece he wrote about sitting in the Nécropole, the military cemetery, of Sigolsheim in the Haut-Rhin department of Alsace. The view from this hill over the vineyards showed him how the Grand Cru sites corresponded to their position on the slopes. I visited the cemetery (of men who died in the Colmar pocket battle in World War 2) again last week and Clarke’s words came clearly to mind.

During my 5 days in Alsace I was to taste wines from all over the region, from its vineyards on the plains and the Grand Cru sites. For some years I was unconvinced by the true premium of those sites but my recent experience suggested to me that vignerons are now truly extracting the best from these vineyards and that there is a real jump in quality. I am sure that is not true of all of them but certainly the wines I tasted supported Clarke’s opinion back in the 1990s.


Two favourite grapes from Alsace, Riesling and Pinot Noir, both by Trimbach

One other main development from previous experiences in Alsace was how much drier the wines are being made. There was always a sweetness to many wines but producers seem to have realised that consumers were confused by the different levels of dry, medium and sweetness in bottles which appeared to be of similar wine. It was noticeable that some wine lists even listed some wines such as Gewurztraminer as ‘sucré’ (sweeter). I found this a welcome consistency.

Finally the other main development for me was the improvement in wines from Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir. The Blancs were often simply neutral, lacking real character and flavour. I tasted a number last week which showed real white fruit flavours and a floral, attractive aroma. Similarly the green, thin Pinot Noirs I remember from a few years back are generally now replaced by red fruit, more body and very pleasurable drinking.

The region is arguably the most attractive in France and I do love it. Towns and villages full of colourful, beamed houses, storks nests and often overlooked by castles. The vineyards can be precipitous, alarming slopes falling down to the villages. Machines would find it impossible to operate on some of them, these slopes need careful manual attention.

And yet..

Despite the many positives of Alsace wines it was disappointing to see so much use of herbicides, chemical sprays etc. I saw 3 spraying machines in use and every one operated by a vigneron dressed in plastic suits and masks to (rightly) protect them, these were clearly powerful chemicals being used.

Fortunately I was able to visit some of those who work in more environmentally friendly ways and I shall describe those visits next time.

Author: amarch34

I'm a recently retired (early!) teacher from County Durham in North east England. I am going to be spending most of the next year in the Languedoc leaarning about wines, vineyards and the people who care for both.

7 thoughts on “Alsace

  1. It’s a hard life, Alan – I really don’t know how you cope! Back to the Languedoc now, I presume?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always wish they had delineated premier crus first, and then in time made the best into Grand Cru. There are just way too many.

    In the original tranche some great sites were not included (Sporen, Kaiferkopf), and many are too big (so as not to upset some producers).

    Almost the greatest stride forward in the past decade has been with red wines. I think the traditional blends are coming back as well now.

    I wish I could go back to Alsace.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Agree with all your points, I know I was sceptical for years about the whole GC issue but most of those I tasted were a clear step up from the varietal wines. I am sure I selected some better producers and I know there are some GC wines which do mot merit the accolade.
    I loved it there but the food was definitely an issue for a non meat eater.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Agree on the Pinot Blancs, some lovely expressive wines being made nowadays. I think the use of other Pinot family grapes helps to add richness; some even have a bit of oak ageing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for sharing. We love the Alsace and have spent many a lovely holiday there. We live in Switzerland so can be in Colmar within 40 minutes which is great. My favourite wine has to be the Riesling. I have a poetry blog here on WordPress and today’s poem is about storks in case you have time to look? Have a good afternoon, Sam 🙂


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